Azar Nafisi: Which culture do you most identify with?

Azar Nafisi: The term “portable world” I borrowed from Nabokov. He uses it in relationship to one of his most loveable characters, ..., where he says his world was like a soccer ball. It was a portable world. I learned from early childhood that everything you call home can be taken away from you at the drop of a curtain, you know? Not just wars and revolutions can destroy everything you’re identified with, but a hurricane, a tornado . . . It’s very easy. And I learned that I need to rely not on the things that the world can take from me. And so my world . . . What I identify with is a set of memories, and a sort of a universal world where I identify with a set of values. And so whether you’re Persian, or American, or French even, you know you can all agree on those set of principles of human rights. I believe in . . . The declaration of human rights is my world, my home. And the world of imagination is the other . . . is the halo around that world. I feel – and I tell this to my children – that we are very lucky to have been . . . lived in two cultures simultaneously because in my field you have to look at the world through others’ eyes. And I feel lucky that I can look at U.S. through Iran’s eyes. And that sense of community, warmth, and closeness; the attention to just the details of life that sometimes we miss in U.S. – I feel lucky that I can bring that to my life in the U.S. And the sense of infinite possibilities and the idea of pursuit of happiness is what I can take from this country to Iran. And so I feel . . . I used not to feel lucky. I used to feel deprived because I don’t ever have a home. But now I feel good.

Recorded on: 2/22/08

Nafisi on the "portable world."

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Think you’re bad at math? You may suffer from ‘math trauma’

Even some teachers suffer from anxiety about math.

Image credit: Getty Images
Mind & Brain

I teach people how to teach math, and I've been working in this field for 30 years. Across those decades, I've met many people who suffer from varying degrees of math trauma – a form of debilitating mental shutdown when it comes to doing mathematics.

Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

How KGB founder Iron Felix justified terror and mass executions

The legacy of Felix Dzerzhinsky, who led Soviet secret police in the "Red Terror," still confounds Russia.

Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Felix Dzerzhinsky led the Cheka, Soviet Union's first secret police.
  • The Cheka was infamous for executing thousands during the Red Terror of 1918.
  • The Cheka later became the KGB, the spy organization where Russia's President Putin served for years.
Keep reading Show less